There were so many cookbooks at her house and yet I never saw her use one. I know I must have followed recipes when I first started cooking - of course I did! But now I really only use them for inspiration: ideas for combining things I wouldn't have thought of and pretty pictures. If I've tried to throw something together a couple of times and it was never Just Right, maybe I'll follow one as closely as possible to see if I can get it right. Usually I end up improvising or substituting anyway. Maybe it's some kind of family curse.
That's one of the reasons, actually, for this here blog-like blog. So many of these recipes are for baked goods and we all know you can't (ok, I can't) just throw baked goods together and have them come true. There's actual chemistry in baking! We'll see how it goes. A certain cinnamon bun recipe caught my eye as I was sorting... shop for actual ingredients? On purpose? It could happen!
In the meantime, a view into Jumpy's* world. I'll have to start inventorying photos as well (housekeepy!) and find a good one to illustrate, I'm sure there's something.
* It's weird to call her Jumpy but you don't want to hear me say "my aunt" a million times and just plain "Carol" would never ever fly. She gave Mander The Look one time for calling her Carol without an honorary. :D As must as I'd love to see her again, not if she's giving me The Look.
Aunt Carol was an institutional cook by career. I recall there being temptations to go chef it up on a cruise ship or one of the casinos, but she was tethered to home by more things than I can probably ever understand. She retired with her pension after 30 years of service with the county, half at the jail and half at the nursing home. She liked cooking at the jail much much more. "At least they have a hope of getting out." she'd say. We'd go visit her and my grandfather for holidays and she'd get up at 4am to go to work, cook 100 turkeys and more and then come home to cook another.
While sorting recipes I found this one.
80lbs stew beef
4-5 stalks celery (I'm thinking that's heads?)
10-12 bags carrots
10 large onions
can potatoes (think drum size can)
That's it. If I had to guess, I'd say she would brown up those 80lbs of beef (in batches!) and throw it into the giantest pot imaginable, or three. Chop those veggies pretty thick, a stew wants to be able to set up on itself. You'd have to make a gravy from the browned meat, thickened with flour - maybe cornstarch - I'm not sure what she preferred. Maybe in jail you just dump a big can of brown gravy on top of everything and cook it. But that's not what made people get arrested in her county on purpose, no. I can just see her tiny but meaty hand measuring out a fist full of salt for this immense pot of stew.